Opposition Fails To Prevent Passage Of Delhi Services Bill In Rajya Sabha: Centre Set To Get Control Of Bureaucrats Via LG

Swarajya Staff

Aug 08, 2023, 08:19 AM | Updated 08:19 AM IST

Union Home Minister Amit Shah (Pic Via Twitter)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah (Pic Via Twitter)

The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which grants extensive powers to the Lt Governor and bureaucrats and replaces the existing ordinance on control of services in the National Capital, was approved by Parliament on Monday (7 August) night.

The bill had already been passed in Lok Sabha four days prior to its clearance in Rajya Sabha.

With 131 votes in favour and 102 against, the Bill was successfully passed in the Upper House of the Parliament.

The ruling alliance received support from the BJD and YSRCP, each with 9 MPs, while the Opposition fell a few votes short of their anticipated count.

Despite the Opposition's efforts, including the presence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a wheelchair and ensuring the attendance of the ailing Shibu Soren for voting, the passage of the Bill could not be prevented.

During the eight-hour-long debate, characterised by bitter and acrimonious exchanges between the Opposition and the Treasury benches, Union Home Minister Amit Shah strongly criticized the Opposition.

He asserted that the Bill does not violate the Supreme Court's judgement in any way.

The Bill was introduced to replace the ordinance that was issued following the Supreme Court's ruling on the control of services in Delhi by the elected government.

The AAP government challenged the constitutional validity of the ordinance and the Supreme Court referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

P Chidambaram and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Congress, and Raghav Chadha from the AAP strongly criticised the Bill. In response, Shah said that the Bill was not introduced to protect the Prime Minister's membership or impose an Emergency.

"We have not changed the Constitution to impose Emergency… The Congress has no right to speak on democracy. More than 3 lakh political workers were put in jail (during Emergency)… There was censorship on all newspapers… The Indian Express had to keep its editorial blank…. and they (Congress) are talking about democracy," Shah said.

Shah defended the Bill by addressing the Opposition's concerns about officers being given the power to draft Cabinet notes.

He explained that, based on his experience in two governments, it is the officers who prepare the Cabinet notes, and he personally signs files rather than Cabinet notes.

Shah pointed out that the provisions in the Bill align with the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993, which were put in place by the Congress.

According to him, the rules that have been incorporated into the Bill are not new. They have been included because of the government in Delhi not following rules, he added.

Shah said the Centre had to resort to an ordinance because the AAP government was transferring officers and directing Joint Director-level officers to report directly to the Minister.

He questioned why only the vigilance department was targeted and not other departments like transport, Jal Board, road and building, or social welfare. He added that this was because the vigilance department holds files related to excise policy cases and liquor scam.

Shah mentioned that former Home Minister Chidambaram had questioned the urgency behind the ordinance. He explained that the reason behind it was to prevent the hiding of documents at midnight.

The liquor scam, illegal construction of a "Sheesh Mahal" for the Chief Minister, misuse of Delhi government funds for AAP's publicity, and issues related to the Feedback Unit are all under investigation by the vigilance department, he said.

The files were removed at midnight to conceal the excessive spending on the Sheesh Mahal, which was six times more than the allocated amount. This urgency led to the complaint filed by the Delhi Police. Shah defended these actions, questioning the constitutionality of the situation.

Despite the furore over Shah's use of the term "Sheesh Mahal" to refer to the Delhi Chief Minister's residence, he maintained his stance.

He argued that concerns about the Centre encroaching on states' rights were misplaced, as Delhi is a Union Territory. He said rules regarding transfers and postings were always there but no government before 2015 fought with the Centre.

Shah emphasized that previous Chief Ministers had no issues with the Centre and were focused on developing Delhi.

"But a government, which was born out of an agitation, came to power in 2015 and the problems began. It is said that the Centre wants to grab powers…There is no need for us to grab powers… we have been blessed with it by 130 crore people of the country… In many states, the BJP is in power… We have brought this amendment to prevent encroachment of power,” he said, reports Indian Express.

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